Santillana del Mar is said to be one of the prettiest villages in Spain because it's so well taken care of. It's a pleasure to walk through the streets and see the pretty houses with their flowers and balconies. The best plan is to visit the town during the Renaissance festival when the plaza fills up with medieval stands and people in period dress. It's like going back in time! Since it's only a few streets wide, you can see Santillana del Mar pretty quickly, but it's best to take your time and enjoy all the history that happened there.
In the peninsula of Magdalena there is a palace that was built to house Alfonso XIII and his family when they visited the area.
It has a neoclassic French and English style. It currently houses the university (Universidad Internacional Palacio de la Magdalena Menéndez Pelayo), where they give important lectures every summer.
The gardens are perfect for getting lost.
This is a traditional Spanish fishing town that has grown in importance ever since the singer David Bustamante became famous with Operación Triunfo (a Spanish version of American Idol). During the summer, the town receives many tourists and everything is packed.
It’s still a beautiful town, both during low and high tide. The rest of the year you can enjoy a bit more peace and quiet.
I know of few cities that combine beach and city as well as Santander. You can sit on the sand of any beach in Santander and it seems like you're miles from the city just lounging around with other tourists and beach-goers who are just there to enjoy the sun and the waves of salty water that heal the body and ease the mind.
But as soon as you leave the sand, you discover large urban avenues lined by clean, white sidewalks and asphalt.
Take a few steps from the beach and your swimsuit and sarong become increasingly out of place. The north is elegant by nature and the streets of Santander are sober but with a touch of character. I understand why some people prefer Northern summers. This temperature and cultural refinement make it a really enchanting place.
It is very pretty, but it costs 5 Euros, you can see it in no time and there is no guided visit. But you have to see it because it is beautiful and it was made by Gaudí. Comillas is a must stop. You can see the Palacio de Sobrellano in the background.
At the end of the 19th century, Comillas was gorgeous: splayed out along a large sandy beach and surrounded by enormous cliffs battered by the pounding surf. Life in the town revolved around the small fishing port and the historic district with its arch-lined squares, cobblestone alleyways, and homes of noble families.
The Villa de los Arzobispos, named such for having been home to numerous prelates, seduced the first Marquis of Comillas who undertook works to embellish it even more. That’s how Gaudí, Joan Roig, Cascante Colom, Joan Martorell, Llimona i Bruguera, Vallmitjana, and Lluís Domènech came to leave their marks on some the most important Modernist buildings in Cantabria.
These days, a visit to Comillas is a fascinating experience full of things to see and enjoy. The impressive Palace of Sobrellano and its pantheon-chapel, the university, and El Capricho, Gaudí’s would-be summer home, all embody the essence of Modernism, a style characterized by a heavy Gothic influence, the presence of motifs inspired by the natural world, curved forms, and asymmetry.
But Comillas doesn’t stop there. The ocean breeze sweeps you around the narrow little streets and towards new little corners to discover. One of the most interesting was the Punta la Moira panoramic viewpoint, or the cemetery built on the remains of a 15th century church and presided over by an imposing winged statue. This small village by the sea is a truly moving place.
This is the best beach in all of Santander. It has a young vibe and lots of waves. I’d recommend it 100%.
The water is always clean and it’s a perfect place if you’re interested in surfing. Be careful, though, as the waves and current can be quite strong.
Playa del Sardinero is a gorgeous urban beach a little ways outside of the city center. There’s a large parking lot and plenty of services like bars, restaurants, sun chairs, and lifeguards. There’s also a pleasant boardwalk that lines the entire beach. Even on cloudy days, the beach is full of people swimming, walking, and playing paddleball. It’s a must if you’re in Santander.
The Cabo Mayor Lighthouse is located in a large green area about 2km from the city centre and has a cafe with spectacular views of the Cantabrian Sea and city of Santander.
The rock formations surrounding this lighthouse are quite peculiar and it's a good place to take a walk and get away from the city.
Another one of Santander's beaches, located just to the left of the entrance to the Peninsula de la Magdalena, takes its name from the large shape that the central rock makes. It is a quiet beach where you can see lots of people playing spades, the quintessential beach game in Santander. The surf is not very good at this beach.
This is a beautiful corner in Santoña. There's a walk of about 4 km to reach the entrance. Walk down about 700 steps to reach the lighthouse, which has lovely views next to the sea. Take a breath and gather your strength because the worst part is walking back up the 700 stairs. It's quite an experience, but you can mark it off as a fitness day.
This amazing building is also called the Palace of the Marquis of Comillas since it was built on the same place where his house once stood. It’s was designed by the Catalan architect Juan Martorell.
It was built in the late 19th-century Neo-Gothic style and was furnished by Cascante as well as the painter Lorens and the sculptor Joan Roig.
The Chapel-Pantheon is also part of this palace and is famous for its beautiful marble mausoleum. The furnishings were designed by Gaudí.
It’s one of the most iconic buildings in this charming little village and, thanks to its location right at the entrance of town, gives a welcoming salute to all those who enter. If Comillas is well-known as a prime example of Cantabrian nobility, then this is perhaps the most fitting symbol.
This monument consists of four bronze figures located close to the marina between Embarcadero Palace and the Santander Marina.
The sculptures are of 4 children, one standing looking out to sea, two sitting, and one jumping into the sea. They’re accompanied by a commemorative plaque on the ground. In Santander, these "Raqueros" ("wreckers") are typical folk characters, poor or homeless children mainly, who made their living gathering coins thrown by tourists into the sea.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the activities of the Raqueros became something of a spectacle and groups gathered around to watch them retrieve the coins. These days, it's normal for all visitors to snap a quick photo with the Raqueros.
I went to Noja in July 2012, for a course in choral conducting. I found it to be a lovely place, very quiet, with beaches, an amazing forest and wetlands. I liked it so much that I recommended it to my family, who went in August and this ended the tranquility and charm. It was so much busier and not as lovely! I stayed at the Hotel Maritimo Ris and I liked it so much that I would return when I go back to Noja. Spacious, modern, with a terrace, parking, internet, spa, sauna, gym and a dream buffet for hungry people like me! And right opposite Ris Beach.
Great waves, but if you want it a bit calmer (we worried about our 5 year old and the waves) walk around to the tidal bay at the end of the beach furthest from Noja - whether the tide is out (rock pools and plenty of sandy space) or in (calm and great for snorkelling) it’s fantastic.
The Iberian Peninsula is full of great beaches. Endless, really. I was in Santander in March, so you can understand if I wasn't too eager to go for a swim. However, sitting on the sand enjoying the sea air and some heat from the midday sun is a pleasure you can't get enough of.
Noja Beach is a beautiful stretch of coast with desert-like white sand. I recommend visiting if you're in Cantabria.
Although visiting a cemetery might seem strange, this isn’t your average graveyard. It’s located in the highest part of the town of Comillas and offers one of the best panoramas of the entire coastline.
Inside, there’s a parochial church dating back to the 15th century and numerous Gothic ruins. What strikes your attention most of all is the statue of the Angel of Death (by the sculptor Llimona Bruguera) looking out over the Cantabrian sea.
Another highlight is the Modernist facade which was declared to be a Monument of Cultural Interest in 1983.
Santoña is a small village in the west of Cantabria. For me, it’s the perfect balance between city and town, because it has the comforts of a city and the tranquility of a town.
The festive atmosphere is great but never overwhelming. There are two nearby beaches, one close to the town (San Martín) and the other one is 2 km away (Berria). There is a pretty promenade and the sunset is incredible. It has two forts in the mountains, and two lighthouses which are worth visiting.
It’s quite a touristic town, and there is a good atmosphere in the summertime. I recommend this town. If you go, you’ll want to go back.